There are different stages of estate planning. It is important to start early and review your plan at least every five years or each time there is a major life change, such as marriage, birth of a child, divorce, relocation to another state, inheritance, a significant increase in wealth, a debilitating illness, or the start of a business. As life changes, the proper tools to preserve, grow, manage, and distribute assets also change.

A young adult merely may need to have proper insurance coverage (life, health, liability, and casualty), proper beneficiary designations, a Durable Power of Attorney, and health care directives. When the person acquires assets that will not pass by beneficiary designation under a contract, he or she should have a Will. Upon marriage, each spouse has the concern of not burdening the other with financial devastation, which could result from the lack of proper planning for incompetency, disability, and death. When a child comes along, planning involves how to provide for the child’s needs and education and how to make sure those needs are addressed if the parent should become incompetent or die.

You may think that an insurance policy is the best way to provide for loved ones. Have you carefully considered whether you have enough and the right types of insurance to cover various risks? What if the beneficiary designation for an insurance policy is a minor or is mentally incompetent? If you have not provided some type of trust for the management of insurance proceeds, a legal guardianship, which is a court supervised procedure that will result in extra expense, hassle, and time, might be necessary.

Estate planning for the elderly has different aspects than for young or middle-aged individuals. In some cases, substantial wealth has been accumulated and estate taxes may be an issue. In others, assets may be so meager that qualifying for government aid is a concern. Health issues and impending incompetency tend to become more likely. Who will take care of you? Can you afford long term care? Who will manage your assets? Whatever stage you are in at this point, it is important to plan and not leave the future of you and those you care about to chance.







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